✧Side Story 10✧
*Click For Audio Drama*
Matthias stumbled upon a discovery, as he caught sight of a small figure darting behind a wall. The orphan, raised by the gardener, had been found like a lost pet. With fluttering skirts and a mop of blond hair, there was no mistaking the child. It was by all means her!
But instead of feeling elated at the find, Matthias could only think of one thing: the child’s tendency to run away and cry.
It was a frustrating characteristic, but one that could not be taken as a whole but be tolerated in small doses. As the child looked up at him with wide emerald green eyes, Matthias couldn’t help but feel a twinge of annoyance mixed with pity.
With the scorching sun beating down on them, Claudine suggested it was time to head back. “It’s too hot for an evening walk,” she said, her voice laced with exhaustion. Despite the wide-brimmed hat and parasol, Claudine’s face was flushed with heat. Even Matthias, who was never bothered by the effects of the sun, was feeling the same.
But he was willing to indulge Claudine’s whims, who had requested the walk. He couldn’t deny the excitement of possibly finding the elusive child, who was known for hiding in the shadiest spots. However, the thought of trudging through the sweltering heat wasn’t worth the potential reward.
As they made their way back to the mansion, Matthias caught a glimpse of the child, running away as usual, bundled up in winter clothes despite the scorching weather.
Was it because of their first encounter?
He remembered the day the little girl had appeared in the forest of Arvis, like an interesting prey. But just like a bird that quickly flew out of sight, Matthias’ interest in her had remained at that level.
She was just another wild bird in his forest, nothing more. With that thought, Matthias turned his attention away from the child and followed Claudine into the cool embrace of the mansion. The pleasant air enveloped them, and the heat quickly faded, beaten by the luxurious mansion.
Bill Remmer was taken aback when he learned the news from the talkative Chef Mona. He couldn’t find the words to express his shock, simply muttering “Oh, this is so” repeatedly while scratching the back of his neck. The thought of raising a daughter on his own, as a widower, was a daunting task unlike any he had faced before.
“Oh, so that child is already…….”
Chef Mona, observing him with a hint of amusement, chided him. “What do you mean already? Its way later than my daughter,” she said with a click of her tongue. “I understand it’s not easy for a wooden stone like you to raise a daughter that suddenly appeared.”
But Bill was quick to correct her, “What daughter? I just wanted to…”
“Don’t say such nonsense,” Chef Mona interrupted him firmly, pointing towards the Duke’s Rose Garden. “Pick up the roses over there.”
Bill’s face contorted with confusion.”What are you planning to do with those ro…?”
But before he could finish his sentence, Chef Mona interrupted, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “Oh, my dear Bill! You truly are a flower-growing expert, but you seem to be lacking in the art of gift-giving.”
“Gift?” Bill repeated, his brow furrowed in embarrassment. He had never thought of giving flowers as a gift before.
Chef Mona continued, “When a young girl reaches a milestone in her life, it’s tradition for her to receive a bouquet of flowers. And Leyla, your daughter, is about to reach one of those milestones.”
Bill’s face contorted sharply with guilt, “You right, even though she’s not my real daughter…I still have to give her a gift, but I haven’t found the right time yet. Oh, my. I should have sent it as soon as possible, but it turned out like this.“
Chef Mona shrugged, “Why don’t you give it to her now?”
“But she will go somewhere, isn’t she?
“What can I do? Mr. Remmer can’t think of her as a daughter, and if Leyla has no place to go, he has no choice but to send her to an orphanage or something. Well! Should I find a gift for you if you can’t do it with your hands?”
“By the way, the idea that you would send a girl to a place where she would be unprotected saddens me greatly. This is how the world has to be.” As Bill Remmer’s eyelids twitched, the chef’s tone grew even more annoying. “She will be a striking beauty if she turns out to be an upstanding young lady, but if she ever meets with a rascal…..”
“Oh God!” Bill’s nerves were frayed to the breaking point. He couldn’t take it anymore and shouted,” I’ll do it! ” I’ll raise her and pick the gift on my own, just stop talking!”
Chef Mona’s words were like a bitter pill for Bill Remmer to swallow, her intention to help him clear but the reality of the situation weighing heavily on him. He couldn’t bear the thought of Leyla being sent to a place with no one to protect her, the harshness of the world too much to bear.
Bill Remmer stood before the blooming roses flushed with wide variety of colors, his mind awhirl with confusion and uncertainty. He had always tended to the flowers with care and dedication, but the thought of plucking them for a purpose as foreign to him as gift-giving was daunting.
“Oh, I’m scared. People would think you’re her real father.” Chef Mona’s hateful laughter echoed in his ears as she shook out her apron and left the garden. Bill was left alone in the silence, pacing between the flower beds, scratching his neck in agitation. It wasn’t until a young worker approached him that he realized how foolish he must have looked.
As the young worker approached him with concern etched on his face, Bill Remmer couldn’t help but feel a sense of unease. The boy’s innocence was a sharp contrast to the thoughts racing through Bill’s mind. He thought of Leyla, and how one day, this simple boy may very well be the one to give her flowers, to court her. The idea made Bill’s blood boil.
“Mr. Remmer…?” The worker’s voice broke through his thoughts, but Bill’s fierce gaze was enough to make the boy shrink back in fear.
Taking a deep breath, Bill tried to calm himself. He shook his hand dismissively, ignoring the worker and once again began pacing through the rose garden. He reached for a flower, but each time, he pulled back, his mind consumed by the thought of Leyla and the future.
Meanwhile, Leyla was running an errand for Lady Claudine Brandt, picking fresh roses from the garden to take to her drawing room. Though the task was easy enough, it broke Leyla’s heart to see the remaining flowers, the ones that Uncle Bill had tended to with so much care and love, discarded and left to wither away.
“Tricky and troublesome” was how Uncle Bill described the rose garden, but Leyla knew that he held a deep reverence for the flowers. The garden workers had also shared this sentiment, saying that Uncle Bill believed roses were just like people that they thrived when they were loved sincerely.
As expected, Lady Claudine had left behind many roses after her visit. Leyla couldn’t help but stare at them longingly, and impulsively asked the maid who had come to deliver the labor fee, “Those flowers, may I take them?”
“Roses? I was just going to throw them away, so take them as you please,” the maid responded nonchalantly before following her mistress’ footsteps.
Left alone, Leyla hesitantly approached the table, carefully arranging the bouquet in her arms. Holding the bundle of fragrant roses felt strange and unfamiliar, but also comforting in a way she couldn’t quite explain.
The cabin’s yard was filled with rose bushes because it was a gardener’s home. Leyla was welcome to as many as she desired. She occasionally sliced the rose into pieces to use as table and desk decor. She used dried petals to create a fragrance bag. Uncle Bill didn’t stop Leyla from spreading it all around the home despite admitting it was bothersome.
She remembered an arrangement of flowers that her friends used to boast about, and that was why a plain rose feels so fresh to her.
Leyla left the Duke’s home while pondering many things. The rose looked lovelier in the sunlight. Leyla made the decision to treat the bouquet she was holding as a present. Anyway, believing that it was a present from Uncle Bill didn’t seem to be particularly inaccurate.
Leyla took a lighter stride as she moved along the forest trail. Along the leaping stairs, the hair that had been waved loose to make a thread to tie the bouquet was.
She was unaware of how fortunate she was that the painful job and discomfort was no longer present. Nevertheless, she claimed that going forward, she would go through it every month. Even though Chef Mona’s new underwear was uncomfortable, it was considerably more tolerable than that.
Being a woman, Chef Mona had said the words that were Bermuda Triangles like mystery to Leyla, shrouded in uncertainty and prickling with a sense of foreboding. She couldn’t quite grasp the full meaning of it yet, but the memory of the word alone sent a shiver down her spine. To Leyla, the idea of becoming a woman held a sense of awe and reverence.
That’s what her relatives had called her mother, with all sorts of derogatory modifiers attached.
They called her that name with disdain, their anger clear in their tone. It was easy to see how much contempt they held for her.
Was her mother truly the terrible woman they made her out to be?
Leyla had been grappling with this question more and more, but finding an answer proved difficult. But one thing was certain, Leyla never wanted to be like the woman they spoke of, or like her mother, or like her daughter.
It was a small, bloody lump that caught her eye, diverting her thoughts from her contemplation. Leyla didn’t have to get closer to know what it was-
a beautiful little bird, shot by the Duke.
She recoiled in horror, biting back the scream that threatened to escape her lips.
Leyla nervously walked the winding path through the forest, her heart pounding with fear. It was not the day of the hunting party, and yet she knew that the Duke had a habit of going out alone to practice his marksmanship on the small birds of the forest.
Uncle Bill praised the Duke’s improved shooting skills day by day, but Leyla could not shake the feeling of dread that overcame her whenever she thought of him alone in the woods with a gun in his hand.
The Duke became a completely different person when he was not surrounded by the other nobles. Whenever he went hunting alone, it was bad news for both the forest’s small birds and her.
She debated turning around and going the other way, but her curiosity got the better of her.
As she walked, the sound of gunfire echoed through the trees, and Leyla knew that the Duke was nearby. When she drew closer, she could see the Duke on the road, his horse’s head turned in her direction. He had just lowered his gun, and a small bird lay bloodied at his feet.
Leyla froze, hugging a bunch of roses close to her chest as the Duke’s eyes met hers. She could see the change in his expression, from one of satisfaction to one of malice. She wanted to run, but her legs would not move. She wanted other nobles to show up and save her, but no one came no matter how long she waited.
The Duke was by himself.